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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Watching Fiona

Dear Readers

As it turns out, where breast cancer is concerned, a story cannot end simply by writing the words 'The End".

One fools oneself into believing there is such a thing as 'moving on', or putting it all behind you.

But as I've discovered, cancer is an insistent companion, refusing to be shrugged off.  It is a bloody pest, to be honest.

Even if you throw yourself into life and living - even if, for no reason, you decide to memorise the map of the world,  even if you are foolhardy enough to take up hockey with your bad ankles and arthritic fingers, even when you spend your family fortune on a four week trip overseas for five adults, barely stopping yourself from throttling your sixteen year old in the process -  it's always on your shoulder, hassling you with reminders of what has passed and sometimes bleak thoughts on what is yet to be.

Each and every day there are constant reminders:  spasms on radiated chest walls; itchy scars; tablets to take; and oh, I should mention thoughts of carking it.

My sister's separate and concurrent battle hasn't helped things.

As I write, Fiona is five shots away from completing her radiation.

For those for whom this may indeed be news, here is what has transpired in her prognosis so far - in a nutshell.

Fiona had a much more aggressive cancer than I had, a very large invasive tumour that places her in a high risk of recurrence, post treatment.

Fiona had a removal of all her lymph glands followed by the same chemotherapy treatment I endured.

Like me, she handled it with sang froid.

Apart from hair loss, you wouldn't have known she had cancer.  She was as energetic as usual, even commencing her much desired PhD in Linguistics.  The girl really is bloody amazing.

After this, Fiona had a bilateral mastectomy with a simultaneous reconstruction in a fairly new procedure called a 'oncer', again bouncing back (so to speak).  Her substantial Double Ds were replaced by a very conservative B-Cup, so small that they are hardly worth talking about.

As I said, she's currently going through radiation - dyed then fried - and then, like the rest of us poor breast cancer bastards, it's all 'wait and see'.

The fact is though, as I recently observed to Nim, it is much harder to watch someone you love going through this thing than to go through it yourself.

For all the positiveness and blitheness and 'getting on with it', it's really quite hard, isn't it, when it's someone you care about?

But watching Fiona deal with her fears and challenges has revealed to me what my own family and close friends may have gone through while I was in the thick of things.

Sure, I have empathy for Fiona (for obvious bloody reasons).  But I also now have new found empathy for my friends and family.

I realise how shitty it is to watch someone you love (a bit of an assumption there, er hem) dealing with a life and death battle.

It sucks.

As a result I have to say I do feel a little better about beating you over the head with this blog.

It IS better to know than not-to-know - how the person you are concerned about feels, what they think, how they are coping.

I do cherish the time I have spent with Fiona so far.  I think it's important to talk to someone about how you really feel.

I know there are many of my fellow breast cancer soldiers out there who possibly roll their eyes at the very public way I have handled my travails throughout this little adventure.

It may be considered a bit, you know, 'too much information'.

Perhaps it is my background as a 'communicator' but I NEED to know how Fiona is doing.  Because obviously, I love her and I would hate to think she is crying into her pillow at night while pretending everything is fine.

It's not for everyone, I understand.

Some of us are very "private" and that is a wonderful thing.  To each his own etc etc

But for me?  Now?  Watching Fiona I think that it is good to know - what she thinks, how she feels.

And I think it is unhelpful to keep you feelings and fears hidden and I think people want to know how things have progressed.

On this basis, I hope we can continue our relationship by way of this blog.

I look forward to talking with you again, soon.

Kind Regards